Rodney Stuckey averaged 13.9 points and 26.7 minutes in 73 games for the Pistons last season. (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)
The feeding frenzy known as NBA free agency is upon us, and the league’s landscape can be forever changed — or remain the same if the top players stay put, as now seems probable.
The Detroit Pistons won’t be in play for the top-tiered stars but can add significant pieces who can pay dividends, if Stan Van Gundy can make his first foray into the open market a successful one.
News: The Pistons extended a qualifying offer to Greg Monroe, while also declining a team option on veteran guard Chauncey Billups.
Views: The qualifying offer with Monroe is essentially a formality, officially making him a restricted free agent, and now the posturing has to end between the two sides, as they try to hammer out a long-term deal.
For Billups, it could be a bittersweet end to a great run for a player who’ll likely have his jersey retired in due time. His return was trumpeted by fans and observers, but Billups’ 37-year-old body wouldn’t cooperate with his desires to steer the Pistons to respectability.
He still was respected and loved in the locker room and could decide to continue his career elsewhere. But the best course of action could be beginning his post-playing career, which could begin on a TV set and likely transition to a team’s front office, where he hopes to follow in the steps of Joe Dumars as a Hall of Fame player-turned-executive.
News: Rodney Stuckey is an unrestricted free agent, and there hasn’t been talk about Stuckey returning.
Views: After seven seasons, Stuckey will look for a fresh start on the open market. Amazingly, he’s played for six head coaches in that time, and his biggest clashes came from the coaches who served the most time on the sidelines — John Kuester and Lawrence Frank.
Frank wanted Stuckey traded from the moment he arrived as coach, and the two never got on the same page. When the Pistons were shopping Stuckey, they actually had to tell Frank not to blast Stuckey to fellow coaches around the league, as reports of internal conflicts began making their way around the league, hurting any trade value he had.
As for Kuester, he was over his head from Day 1. With the Pistons in an awkward position of having older players such as Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince controlling the floor and locker room, Kuester couldn’t balance things with the youth on the roster — or Stuckey, who was attempting to grow into the point guard spot.
Stuckey can be vocal and admittedly has had issues with maturity, but this past season, when chaos reigned all around, he was actually the most consistent personality in the locker room. He refused to get involved in the drama and, quietly, was one of Maurice Cheeks’ biggest advocates.
Whether he’s finally turned the corner or kept it together because he was in a contract year remains to be seen, but he’ll be a nice low-key addition next season, possibly for a good team.
Why didn’t it work in Detroit? He was the “point guard of the future” but needed to be taught more than he needed the actual on-court experience, and when Billups was traded in 2008 — in part to make room for the emerging Stuckey — his best chance at a normal existence in Detroit went out the door with Billups.
Possessing the talent to be great and wanting it are often two separate propositions, and by the time Stuckey began to truly figure out the position, the Pistons drafted Brandon Knight in 2011 and wanted to put the ball in his hands — moving Stuckey off the ball.
He’ll likely be remembered as a player who didn’t fulfill the promise of the last regime, but that’s only part of the story. Expect Stuckey to be good in another uniform.
News: Speaking of underachieving, Charlie Villanueva’s five-year tenure comes to an end as well, with his $35 million deal bringing less than a suitable return.
Views: Villanueva is probably the poster child for Pistons fans who hated seeing the team’s downturn after a glorious run. Villanueva parlayed some decent time in Milwaukee into a big deal with the Pistons in 2009, and never lived up to it.
Once the Pistons reduced Villanueva’s role, relegating him to occasional scorer and spot-up shooter, he couldn’t even deliver on his limited opportunities. His open threes came up short and flat, and nagging injuries contributed to his underachievement.
His last three years in Detroit, he failed to crack the 40 percent mark and even shot 55 and 57 percent from the foul line, respectively, the last two years. Now, as he approaches 30, he has to figure out his next step, to see if a team will sign him to a minimum salary deal before camp begins in September.